A state-by-state breakdown of the ongoing measles outbreak. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness. It begins with a prodrome of fever, cough, coryza (runny nose), conjunctivitis (pink eye), lasting 2-4 days prior to rash onset. Measles can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. Measles is transmitted by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing; infected people are contagious from 4 days before their rash starts through 4 days afterwards. After an infected person leaves a location, the virus remains viable for up to 2 hours on surfaces and in the air."
With the recent outbreak of measles that has been linked to Disneyland in California, people are scrambling to determine if they are protected, and whether or not they need to be immunized for measles.
From Jan. 1 through March 13, 176 people from 17 states and the District of Columbia were reported to have measles, according to the CDC. Fortunately, there still have not been any reported cases in Idaho. However, there have been cases in neighboring states Washington, Nevada and Utah.
The majority of people who got measles were not vaccinated, according to the CDC.
On Jan. 23, the CDC released a heath advisory to provide guidance for healthcare providers to ensure all patients are up to date with MMR and other vaccines.
Below are a number of questions and answers from CDC regarding measles and measles vaccine:
The MMR vaccine prevents measles and 2 other viral diseases—mumps and rubella. These 3 vaccines are safe given together. MMR is an attenuated (weakened) live virus vaccine. This means that after injection, the virus grows and causes a harmless infection in the vaccinated person with very few, if any, symptoms. The person's immune system fights the infection caused by these weakened viruses and immunity develops which lasts throughout that person’s life.
If you’re unsure whether you’re immune to measles, you should first try to find your vaccination records or documentation of measles immunity. If you do not have written documentation of measles immunity, you should get vaccinated with measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Another option is to have a doctor test your blood to determine whether you’re immune, but this option is likely to cost more and will take two doctor’s visits. There is no harm in getting another dose of MMR vaccine if you may already be immune to measles (or mumps or rubella).Contact: St. Luke’s Travel Medicine and Immunization Clinic
April Southwick, RN, NP, MPH, MSN is a certified adult and geriatric nurse practitioner. She has practiced with St. Luke's Occupational Health, and is involved in travel medicine. April is a member of the International Society of Travel Medicine and has a Certificate in Travel Health.